Jewish World Review Oct. 19, 2001 /2 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- ONE casualty of Sept. 11, The New York Times tells us, is "the prospect of a unified left." This may seem less than tragic, but try to picture the political pathos: There they were -- labor leaders, student activists, anti-globalists, Hillary Clinton -- all coming together to do political battle when a real war came along and ruined everything.
Where there was once an emerging "liberal coalition" just waiting to take back the House of Representatives and maybe even the White House, there are now opposing factions: the so-called "anti-terrorist left" and (no, not the pro-terrorist left) "the embattled new peace movement."
Embattled? It wishes. If college campuses are any measure, one of the problems the "new" peace movement faces -- and there are many (more on that below) -- is closer to neglect than embattlement. Take Wesleyan, where students recently staged a daylong "teach-in/walkout" to "voice their concerns," as the college newspaper put it, "with the United States military action against the Taliban." Problem was, the students were unable to muster enough concern for the Taliban (voiced or not) for a scheduled march through the Connecticut campus. It was canceled.
Down the highway at Yale, a "speak-out" drew only what the college daily called a "small group" -- although participants get points for being "solemn and intellectual."
These Yale Coalition for Peace-niks also "voiced their concerns," including: a lack of information; general apathy on campus; no one noticing the white armbands they made themselves from old sheets. "Hopefully, activists will start becoming active," said coalition member Dalton Jones. That's not all. "Some mentioned that the media have provided few images of the destruction in Afghanistan, and no Afghan victim biographies, though both were available about the Sept. 11 attacks." Wait until Oliver Stone hears about this.
So much for Yale. Things were no better at Brown, naturally. There, students participated in a "class walkout" (not to be confused with a "speak-out" or "teach-in/walkout") sponsored by a group rather impressively named Not Another Victim Anywhere (NAVA). The walkout turnout was sparse enough to have prompted a participating English professor named William Keach to say, "The anti-war movement may seem like a small voice now, but it will continue to grow in the days and weeks to come."
Why? What exactly does it have to say? So far either not much or too much. That is, it's either the empty jargon of students about "organizing for peace" and "laying the groundwork for real solutions," as NAVA's Shaun Joseph put it, or it's just an open vein of professorial vitriol. It's either students cutting out flocks of paper doves at Colorado University (please!), or it's University of Texas professor Robert Jensen writing that the Sept. 11 massacre "was no more despicable than the massive acts of terrorism ... that the U.S. government has committed during my lifetime." It's University of Indiana students rushing out on Day 1 of the bombing campaign to pitch a "Peace Camp," or it's Professor Keach comparing the massacre of Sept. 11 with the Gulf War. "I was cheering when the Pentagon got hit," Peter Zedrin of Providence told Brown students, "because I know about the brutality of the military. The American flag is nothing but a symbol of hate and should be used for toilet paper for all I care."
Nice, balanced, enlightening talk like this deeply bothered some students, much to their credit, but it doesn't seem to stop. Berkeley demonstrators wave placards with such slogans as, "The U.S.A. is still the world's greatest terrorist." CCNY professor Walter Daum blames "American imperialism" for the Sept. attack, while international studies professor Marina Fernando blames "the blood lust [in America] that follows" the attack for the plight of Afghan refugees.
Blood lust? More than 5,000 Americans died on Sept. 11 -- and more than 500,000 might have died if the hijackers had packed a small nuclear device in their carry-on luggage. In seeking to prevent future massacres, President Bush isn't leading a reluctant nation onto, say, an ideological battleground in a distant proxy state: He's trying to save the country.
This war came to Lower Manhattan and Arlington, Virginia. And when firemen and receptionists and bankers and busboys die on the job by the thousands in their own hometowns, the abstract, philosophical point of departure for American peace movements dies with them. That notion probably accounts for the shallow reach of the hollow rhetoric, whether acid or fatuous. The urgent question before us is not whether we should prosecute a war against Islamist terrorism, but how to win it. Too bad they won't be studying that in
JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.